Mrs. Intisar AL WAZIR Minister of Social Affaires Palestinian National Authority
This Special Session of the General Assembly is being held as humanity enters the third millenium, while under going radical international changes, politically, economically and socially. The Globalization process has been intensified due to the revolution in communication, technology, transportation and information. Our world has become a small global village with common concerns and common future.
Today, the world is confronted with great strategical and existential difficulties and problems. This requires a collective effort of the international community to find the appropriate solutions. These problems include weapons of mass destruction that threaten the existence of humanity, the increase of all kinds of armed conflicts, arm race, abuse of natural resources that poses a threat to human lives and the nature balance, inequalities in economic international relations and the widening gap between rich developed countries and poor developing countries, where 80 % of the poorest people live. In addition, there are the debt problems, which are exhausting an important part of the resources of poor countries, desertification, the increase of HIV/AIDS and other epidemics that continue to pose a major obstacle to the development of these countries.
The Wold Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995 discussed very important issues, essential to the lives of all peoples, at the forefront of which is the eradication of poverty, the elimination of unemployment and the promotion of social integration.
evolution which took place after the Summit, including the Seattle events, indicates
that the situation worldwide has not improved the way it had been envisaged
in that Summit. The Copenhagen Plan of Action has not been fully implemented.
Poverty has increased five times since then, as stated by United Nations Secretary
General, unemployment is on the rise, social integration has been severely elusive
in many countries due to
ethnic, religious, national intolerance, marginalization and weakening of democracy.
The Palestinian people are still struggling for their rights to selfdetermination, the establishment of their independent democratic Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital and a solution for Palestine Refugees problem in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, in particular General Assembly resolution 194 (III) that calls for their right to return to their homes or compensation for their losses of homes, property and livelihood in the last fifty years.
In addition to the Israeli refusal to implement the interim agreement, particularly, the withdrawal from the Palestinian territory including Jerusalem, and the establishment of safe-passage between the West Bank and Gaza, it continues to maneuver and delay negotiations on permanent solutions to the problems of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, boundaries and sovereignty. It refuses to go back to the 4th June 1967 boundaries, the return of refugees, Palestinian sovereignty over East-Jerusalem and seeks the annexation of settlements, in total violation of the resolutions of the international legitimacy, especially United Nations resolutions 242, 338 and 194. International pressure required at the official and public level to force Israel to comply with international law and will, in order to establish a balanced, comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli and ArabIsraeli conflict.
The Palestinian people live under a politically and economically complex situation, which in turn creates a negative social environment. More than 25 % of the Palestinian people live under the poverty line (2 dollars a day per person) and unemployment has reached more than 12 % . Also there are 120 000 Palestinian laborers working in the Israeli market, bearing in mind that those workers will lose their jobs in case of closures. Growth indicators are weak due to the lack of investments, the absence of security and the stalemate of the peace process. All of these factors make it difficult to achieve a real social development under occupation and the capability to implement economic and social policies and planning.
In spite of this difficult and negative situation, the Palestinian National Authority has passed legislation and laws in the political, economic and social fields. There are thirty laws that play an important role in the creation of a legal environment for the social, economic and political Palestinian society. The electoral process of the members of the Legislative Council took place under international supervision. There are ongoing organizations and a cooperative relationship between the Palestinian Authority and NGOs. A Ministerial Con it tee has been established to enhance the administrative level. In order to achieve transparency and accountability, the Palestinian Authority is laying the foundation of pluralism and promoting democracy and freedom of expression. It has also developed a national employment strategy in Palestine to alleviate unemployment and even eliminate it. However, the Israeli policies remain an obstacle to achieving genuine development in the Palestinian economy.
The Palestinian Authority is also working on the enhancement of national policies to combat poverty. It is worth noting that it provides assistance to 30% of the poor families and gives special attention to the handicapped and the released prisoners.
The P.N.A. also strives to achieve equality between men and women through legislation and laws that take into consideration the gender issue in the development planning. Special attention is being given to the reconstruction process in Palestine through the rebuilding of the infrastructure destroyed by the Israeli occupation. At the same time, this process is aimed at strengthening the social fabric through giving attention to education, health, sanitary drainage, clean water and the environment. The biggest task for the Palestinian Authority is to integrate the returnees within the Palestinian society, and there is a large and ongoing task as all the refugees and the displaced persons return to Palestine.
Our main conclusion is that there can be no real development under occupation. The basic condition to achieve real social development in Palestine is the establishment of the Palestinian Independent State with Jerusalem as its capital, the return of all refugees and the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions. This requires a concrete international mechanism to implement these resolutions and support the Palestinian people in their struggle to realize their national rights if peace, security, freedom, justice, equality, economic prosperity and social development are to prevail for them, all peoples of the region and in the whole world.
We wish this special session on social development the best success.